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Monday, September 17, 2007

Say YES to the Referendum!
Question 1 (check-marked): Do you agree that the official languages in Ukraine should be Ukrainian and Russian?

Which Language Is Second to None in Donbas?

When asked whether making Russian a second official language will hurt Ukrainian speakers, Viktor Yanukovych stated:

Абсолютно ні. Ось психологія людини така, я ж знаю, я народився, жив, виріс у Донбасі. Якщо до тих людей буде шанобливе ставлення і до мови, якою вони говорять, я вам скажу, піде прогрес. Піде процес у бік української мови, і ситуація змінюватиметься на краще".

"Потрібно вчити. Ось внук у мене вільно розмовляє українською. Сини - один краще, другий гірше, ну, вони не вивчали українську мову. Але прищеплювати у людей ненависть до російської мови? Я вважаю, що це неправильно".

Absolutely not. It’s how the mind works, I know this, for I was born and grew up in Donbas. If these people are treated with respect, including the language they speak, then I’ll tell you there will be progress. The process will move in favor of the Ukrainian language, and things will change for the better.

We should study it. Now, my grandson has full command of Ukrainian. As for my sons, one is more fluent and the other is less fluent; well, they didn’t study the language. But should one inculcate people with hatred toward Russian? I think it’s wrong.

According to the 2001 census, Ukrainians make up 56.9 percent of the Donetsk oblast population. Nationwide, some 77.8 percent identify themselves as Ukrainians, while only 67.5 consider Ukrainian their native language.

Question: Which of the two languages needs protection?

Sources: Ukrayinska Pravda, UNIAN, Korespondent, State Committee on Statistics, Party of Regions Official Site


Bravecat said...

It's just a language! I don't think making Russian official will hurt anyone. I tend to agree with Yanuk on that. Let people choose what they want to speak. I know many people who can't speak Ukrainian good enough and prefer to communicate in Russian, and they are as patriotic as any Ukrainian speaking citizen. I believe people should be given a choice.

Anonymous said...

Yanukovych cabinet spent only 2-3% of this year’s sum to promote Ukrainian language - Yushchenko

"President Victor Yushchenko has reprimanded the government of Viktor Yanukovych for failing to implement programs to support the national book publishing industry and the Ukrainian language, according to the President`s press-office.

“If we are speaking about how the state programs to support the Ukrainian language and the Ukrainian book are being implemented, my mark will definitely be negative,” he said at a book fair in Lviv on Saturday and added that those in charge of the implementation of these programs “do not respect the book and the language.”

Yushchenko said the Yanukovych cabinet had spent only 2-3% (UAH 21 mln) of this year’s sum to promote the language and develop the book industry. “This shows that the goal of this government is to maximally ignore the Ukrainian book and the Ukrainian language.”

The last sentence of the quote says it all.


Anonymous said...

People already have a choice.

If it's just a language, then why did the sovoks try their utmost to obliterate Ukrainian?

It's the same ol' merry-go-'round from sovok russkies who think they are superior to everyone.

Bravecat said...

I totally disagree with sovok policies of obliterating Ukrainian language, literature and culture, but I would disagree just the same should the same policies be applied to Russian language.

Taras said...

Hi everyone!:)

If there’s one thing I admire about Yanuk, it’s his progress in learning Ukrainian, compared to the rest of his native region:) He is living proof that even proFFessors can learn Ukrainian. When there’s a will, there’s a way;)!

If Yanuk wants two languages, he should help his fellow Donbasians learn Ukrainian. He should also work with the Kremlin — not for the Kremlin — to do more for Russia’s 3-million Ukrainian community.

Instead, he and his Party of Regions thrive on the antagonisms and fault lines left by the Soviet policy of Russification. They excel in messing with their voters’ minds, intent on keeping them locked away in the mental attic of the 20th century for as long as possible. They worship the lost world of homo Sovieticus, and the “donations” they collect from their parish allow them to raid the bourgeois world's finest resorts.

Have you seen Goodbye, Lenin? If so, you probably experienced the same humanistic and humorous touch that I experienced. Yet if we look at the patronat between the Party of Regions and its voters, we will find no drama of good intentions in it. Yanukovych and his friends show every sign of exploiting the Russian language issue for personal gain, as a lifetime pass to their private version of "stability and prosperity."

As a Kyivite, I speak Ukrainian and Russian equally well. Never in my whole life have experienced any anxiety or constraints while speaking Russian either in public or in private. But I do remember those dirty looks that some people gave me when I spoke my native language in public at the dawn of Ukraine’s independence.

I have no aversion to any language. But I do have aversion to people who want Ukraine to be a colony of the Russian Empire, and are fishing for an excuse not learn Ukrainian, a non-language to them. If A and B live in one country with two official languages, of which A speaks only one language and B speaks both, then something is wrong between A and B. Neither Switzerland nor Canada, nor any other multilingual society, for that matter, historically matches Ukraine’s experience. Of course, not all people who speak Russian are unpatriotic. Kyiv, still largely a Russian-speaking city, voted Yushchenko 78 percent in the third round of the 2004 presidential election.

Equally true, few people want to be les Québécois in their own country. Russian as a second official language would Québécize Ukraine by further marginalizing the Ukrophone minority in eastern parts of the country in relation to the local Russophone majority. This policy would fail to redress the unjust gap between the percentage of people who identify themselves as Ukrainians (77.8 percent) and those who consider Ukrainian their native language (67.5 percent).

The USSR is history. Its mission of amalgamating diverse ethnic groups into “the Soviet people,” is over. The melting pot legacy of Russification must be laid to rest. If Russia wants to be a good neighbor of Ukraine, it should stop taking advantage of the rifts created by Russification. Ukraine and Russia should find common ground, so that the Russian community in Ukraine and the Ukrainian community in Russia receive adequate funding to preserve their cultural identities.

Culturally and intellectually, Ukraine still speaks with a tremble in her voice, even though her intelligentsia no longer gets gagged and Gulagged. The scars can still be felt, as the oligarch era, with its divide et impera script, has been a time of hoarding rather than healing.

Now we have a few million Ukrainians moving between Moscow and Milan in search of work they can’t find at home. We also have a few thousand Ukrainians moving between Montenegro and Monaco in search of ways to spend their wealth. How can we have one law for all if their paths never cross?

Ukrainians should organize. They should invest in their culture and their future. They should follow Aesop’s fable The Wind and the Sun, and raise themselves off Yanukovych’s stabilnist charts.

Anonymous said...

That is, hands down, without a doubt, the best exposition ever about the so-called Russian language "issue."


Anonymous said...

Taras K has a great post where he trashes PoR and points to BYuT as the way forward.


Bravecat said...

And I still maintain that you shouldn't fight a language. Honestly, if I were to come back to Ukraine, I would feel terrible if I were made to use predominantly Ukrainian which I can't even speak anymore. I'm all for the people who want to use it, but hello, it's not my fault I was brought up as a Russian speaking kid. I lived in many countries where I had to use various languages to communicate. So is Ukraine to become one of those countries where I can't speak my native language?

Weird, for I always considered Ukraine my motherland.

Taras said...

Thanks for your feedback, Elmer:)

I just wanted to set the record straight. In Kyiv, I went to a Russian school from day one to graduation. My parents spoke Ukrainian at home, but up until Ukraine’s independence I would read Russian books mostly. My favorite ones were Russian translations of Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle.

I think that learning Ukrainian or Russian as an add-on is no big deal even for mature people. Take Kuchma, who relearned Ukrainian — the language he had spoken as a rural kid, but then forgot, once he became a bigshot Dnipropetrovsk urbanite. Yanuk learned Ukrainian without unlearning Russian, and so did Tymo.

With such a wealth of success stories, is there anything to be afraid of:)?

Taras said...

Thanks for the article, David!

I think it echoes my previous post, even though I don’t normally read the Kyiv Post. And Kuzio has been a longtime fan of BYuT.

Keep your fingers crossed for us on Sept. 30:)

Taras said...

Qatar Cat,

Are you saying that a person of your English proficiency — and a native speaker of Russian, too — is less capable of learning Ukrainian than Yanukovych?:)

Besides, no one says you must speak Ukrainian most of the time, just as no one has ever prohibited me from speaking Russian. In fact, I often speak Russian most of the time. That doesn’t mean repressing my native language, Ukrainian, as would be the case if I still lived in the USSR.

I want Ukraine to be Ukraine. For Ukraine to be Ukraine, no one has to be held at gunpoint and forced to recant their mother tongue. But if Yanukovych wants to ride his Trojan Horse and tear this place apart for profit, then I'll have to say no. I want Ukraine to be Ukraine, not Yanukraine.

If you used local languages in all the beautiful places you’ve been to, then why not try a little Ukrainian, should you come back to Ukraine?:) It’s not about raping people out of their cultural roots. It’s about raising their cultural range:)

Bravecat said...


I would have no problem whatsoever communicating in Ukrainian, I would probably pick it up in few days if I were in Ukraine. This is beside the point. The point is I have only one native language - and it is Russian. Yes I speak another 4 languages well enough (and English is not the one I know best out of them, so as you can imagine I am no novice at learning languages) yet I would like to be able to use my native language in my motherland, and to have an option of using it on every level in Ukraine. Yes I do use native languages of the countries I live in, most of the time anyway, but what about my own? Do I have to travel to Russia, a country which is totally foreign to me, to use it?

You see, I don't associate language with politics. I don't see how both languages can't coexist in Ukraine, and I don't see any reason whatsoever why people of Ukraine can't be comfortably bilingual. Whoever is trying to suppress any of the two languages in any which way gets my firm negative vote.

Pēteris Cedriņš said...

I completely agree with Taras. In Latvia, language legislation has been instrumental in changing the linguistic environment (only about one in five non-Latvians could speak Latvian when independence was restored -- now more than half can). I have a post about language issues here. Learning another language is addition, not subtraction -- protecting our national languages is about reducing asymmetrical bilingualism, not obliterating Russian.

Taras said...

If you can learn a little Ukrainian, then you can cancel your Russian trip right away, for in Ukraine you can use both languages:)

In contrast, if I had to visit Russia, I would not be able to use my native language. I would need to use Russian, rather than French or Spanish, which I once studied. Will I have any emotional difficulty speaking Russian? Not at all! I respect local cultures, and expect the same level of respect for my own:)

People of my generation who live in Ukraine will continue using Russian throughout their public and private lives. But our children will use more Ukrainian, as the generational transition from the USSR to Ukraine nears completion.

In Ukraine, language, politics, and national security can hardly be separated. If Russian becomes a second official language in Donetsk oblast, then relearning Ukrainian will make no sense. How should we call a situation where 56.9 percent of the oblast population identify Ukrainian as their native language, but only a fraction actually use it? Do we need a nationwide zero-sum system that is not fair to people who speak both languages?

According to the 2001 census, people who speak both languages tend to be ethnic Ukrainians. While 14.8 percent of ethnic Ukrainians consider Russian their native language, only 3.9 percent of ethnic Russians consider Ukrainian their native language.

What we need in Ukraine is a win-win policy that will combine the comfort of speaking Russian with the incentive to learn Ukrainian:)

Taras said...

Thank you, Pēteris!:)

That’s exactly my point. From your country’s own perspective, your blog post nails everything I was trying to say about my country: By learning Ukrainian, people will gain, not lose.

I discovered your blog at Stefan’s Dykun, a while ago, and have lurked a few times. I’ve read about you on Wiki. It’s an honor to be on your blogroll:)

Taras said...


I like Casablanca, and do agree with the facts and parallels you outlined. Sometimes I can be even more emotional in expressing them. I know that honest communication often requires voicing unpleasant truths. I know it takes guts to avoid groupthink. I also know that a person who tries to be all things to all people often ends up being nothing to everyone.

But in arguing my point of view, I try to attract people rather than alienate them. In the spirit of Casablanca, which mixes romance and patriotism, I advocate an approach summed up in The Wind and the Sun. In other words, I try to be “warm but firm.”

We can only achieve mutually beneficial results by building bridges, not by burning them. We should reach out for the hearts and minds. Let’s be amicable, not aggressive, OK:)?

Ukraine has a hell of a history: more than three centuries of tsars and commissars, punctuated with bloody wars, Holodomors, Gulags, and post-Soviet depopulation. The melting pot burst at the seams in 1991, but Sovok has lived on. Its half-life, I believe, will span several generations. Over this period, Ukraine will purify her heart and mind of all the bacteria acquired during the colonial era.

The Soviet system left Ukraine with a giant social incubator for crony capitalism, from which the post-Soviet dystopia sprang. Our job is to bring the point of “total recall” as close as we can. If you’ve seen Total Recall, you know what I mean.

In eastern Ukraine, we have millions of people whose major “fault” is to have been born into a Sovietized working-class environment. Their conformist upbringing lies at the base of today’s stabilnist, which explains the miracles performed by the oligarch propaganda machine.

That machine has welded an ironclad association between poverty and corruption on one side and Ukrainian culture and statehood on the other. Thanks to stabilnist, millions of Ukrainians are living in the Soviet age of their minds. They blame poverty and corruption on Ukrainian culture and statehood, hurting the latter and helping the former.

We need to lay this self-fulfilling prophecy to rest. We need to shake the Soviet dust off these lost souls. We need to reclaim them. But to be productive, we need to be polite. And of course, “one law for all” must stop being a joke. Only then will Ukraine become a true home for Ukrainians of all ethnic origins, who will live in peace and harmony.

Every person has the right to preserve their distinct cultural traits if they wrap their mind around an intelligent and independent Ukraine:)

Anonymous said...


You know the joke:

What do you call a person who knows 2 languages? двомовний

What do you call a person who knows 3 languages? тримовний

What do you call a person who knows 4 languages? чотиромовний

What do you call a person who knows 1 language? Russian

Your comment illustrates very clearly that the "language issue" is not about language - it's about 19% of the population of Ukraine, Russians and sovok-minded others, trying to get leverage over the remaining 80%, and in trying to preserve some sort of mythical "higher status".

And, of course, you are right about the oligarch propaganda machine - people in Donetsk and Donbas simply don't get the same info as elsewhere. Which is why Tymoshenko and Lutsenko have been very clever in going into the lion's den, and apparently have had huge success in attracting large crowds.

Shakespeare and Lutsenko, recently, have pointed out the same thing: sometimes the biggest and fiercest prison, the toughtest one to breat out if, is one's own mind.

Blaming poverty and corruption on Ukrainian statehood and culture - what a hoot!

As if bribery and corruption weren't rampant during the sovok era, during the workers' paradise.

'Shake the sovok dust off' - is absolutely right!

Seems to me that's what these elections are for.

Taras said...

That joke applies to some English-speaking countries as well;)!

Being born into the world of the global lingua franca often provides people with little incentive to learn foreign languages. That's not the way things should be.

As one Slovak proverb has it, "The more languages you know, the more of a person you are." :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Taras,

Have you read the following? it analysed the 2004 Pres. elections

Why Donbass Votes for Yanukovych: Confronting the Ukrainian Orange Revolution
by Osipian, Ararat L
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Anonymous said...

Just as Osipian wrote in his article - the buzzwords those keywords are still being used.
"Янукович закликав харків’ян побороти помаранчеву чуму"

Yanukovych calls upon Kharkiv citizens to vanquish the orange pestilence ...

Sounds like 2004 or 2006. Totally predictable rhetoric. So have voters been tuning out? Could be.

But it slays me because as it is so predictable it is easy to prep for - so why is that the 'orange' ones have not been better at countering and feinting?


Pawlina said...

Taras, you articulate your position so well, and I agree wholeheartedly with you.

I'm afraid I find Qatar Cat's arguments over the language issue disingenuous (to say the least).

Ukraine is Ukrainian (at long last) so get over it, dear. Especially if you can converse in Ukrainian, and double especially given it's not hard to find someone who can converse with you in Russian when you visit.

Over the past several centuries, the Ukrainian language has somehow, miraculously, survived attempts (often brutal) to obliterate it -- in its indigenous home. Now, finally, it has the opportunity to develop and flourish.

Let it.

Taras said...

Wow! That’s the best — and biggest — piece of analysis on Donbas that I’ve ever seen! It's a must read for Westerners who seek a better understanding of why people vote for Yanukovych.

Luida, you’re a coal miner of precious articles! Keep up the good work!:)

Taras said...


As the Reg campaign slides back to negative — a sign of helplessness — we should go on DEFCON 1. We should be prepared to deal with their weapon of last resort — the mass “enfranchisement” of our deceased fellow Ukrainians.

We must help the Regs find more socially responsible ways of raising the average life expectancy in Ukraine.

Taras said...


Thank you for your kind words of support. Qatar Cat is a nice, articulate, and culturally well-rounded lady. It’s just that she left Ukraine when it was a non-country, and hasn’t been here for a long time.

I understand her fear of cultural identity loss. But one shouldn’t think that learning Ukrainian leads to unlearning Russian. If she comes back to Kyiv, she can learn Ukrainian, and still speak Russian most of the time. No one will take it away. She will experience no culture shock.

As Ukraine regains its cultural identity, people will gain, not lose. I won’t say another word until Qatar Cat comes back and participates:)

Anonymous said...

Taras thank you for the compliment.

I dig it :)
You can pay me in euros!


Pawlina said...

Hey Taras, you did a much better job of articulating what I meant (wanted) to say.

I hope I didn't chase your friend Qatar Cat away ... my criticism was about her arguments, not her personally, as we've never met. Re-reading my comment, tho, I can see how it might be taken as personal. My apologies to both of you for coming so close to making an ad hominum attack.

However, I still find her arguments weak. (Sorry.)

Taras said...

It’s OK:) I agree with your arguments.

She’s just a little confused about present-day Ukraine. But not as much as Kyiv-born Mila Jovovich, who claimed to be "Russia’s daughter" when she came to Moscow for the first time in her life (to promote Ultraviolet).

I’m sure Qatar Cat can beat Jovovich in the cultural department, and that’s what I was trying to tell her:)

Anonymous said...

Many stars make comments which are 'odd.' Like the following from someone who is part of the intellectual elite.

"Andre Kurkov on the European idea in Ukraine
In an interview with Barbara Oertel, Ukrainian author Andre Kurkov lashes out against the politicians who fronted the "Orange Revolution" and says his country is not yet ready for EU membership. "Europe has enough problems of its own. What's important is that Poland and Lithuania continue to act as advocates for Ukraine. This will suffice to keep the European idea alive in Ukraine. It will be at least another 15 years before Ukraine is ready for EU membership anyway. We must be patient and wait and see what the EU looks like fifteen years from now. Then we will know whether EU membership is worthwhile for Ukraine."
Die Tageszeitung (Germany)

Of course he was interviewed in Germany but, hey, it may be okay for him but not for other Ukrainians.
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